Major winner Rich Beem hopes to play this time as he returns to Hong Kong for HKPGA Championship
American gave up his place at Hong Kong Open last month
He didn’t get to play the last time he signed up for a Hong Kong golf tournament, so major winner Rich Beem is hoping to lift the title after being confirmed for the 2015 Ageas HKPGA Championship.
Beem missed out on the Hong Kong Open last month after graciously allowing Ian Poulter to take his place to keep his European Tour card, and was delighted to accept the invitation to return to Hong Kong.
“I absolutely love the city and am thrilled to be playing the tournament for the first time,” said the 45-year-old American, who beat Tiger Woods to win the 2002 US PGA Championship.
“It’s an event I’ve heard a lot about on my previous visits to Hong Kong, so it’s an opportunity I’m relishing.”
Beem stood down to allow Poulter to play the HK Open because the Englishman would have lost his European Tour membership and Ryder Cup eligibility if he had not played the requisite number of events.
“It was a situation where the right thing needed to happen, so I stepped away and didn’t think twice about it,” said Beem, who has three PGA Tour victories to his credit. “But that’s all in the past. My focus now is all about playing well and trying to win the HKPGA.”
A number of top Asian Tour players also confirmed their participation for the January 11-13 tournament that will have a record prize purse of HK$500,000.
Unho Park, who has won the last four tournaments in a row, will be back and is joined by in-form Richard T Lee of Canada, currently 10th on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and compatriot Scott Barr, runner-up to Park on three occasions.
“I don’t know what it is about the event but it clearly brings out the best in me,” said Park, who has enjoyed a solid season on the Asian Tour. “Making history [with the fourth in a row] earlier this year was a real high point in my career – and I’m going to be trying my hardest to hold on to the trophy for a fifth time. The tournament field just keeps getting better and better, but I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to get started.”
The 54-hole championship will be played in its traditional three-course format, with the New Course at the Hong Kong Golf Club hosting the first round before the players move to Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club on day two. The Hong Kong Golf Club’s Eden Course – and its famous 18th hole, which has decided the outcome of so many tournaments – will provide a fitting finale for the all-important last round.
No local player has won since Dominique Boulet in 2004, but after finishing in third place on his debut 10 months ago, Mickey Chan Chun-hung believes he has what it takes.
“It was a great experience playing in the final group with Unho and Scott last time – it gave me a lot of confidence in my game and proved I can compete with established tour pros,” said the 24-year-old Chan, who enjoyed a fine amateur career before joining the paid ranks in 2013. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot since then and I’d like nothing more than to get my hands on the trophy. I have a good chance.”
Stuart Fraser, CEO of Ageas Insurance Company (Asia), said: “The decision to increase the prize money underlines our delight at how far the championship has progressed since our involvement started in 2010 as well as Ageas’ commitment to professional golf in Hong Kong,” added Fraser.